Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner (NP)

A nurse practitioner is second only to a doctor in terms of responsibilities and authority over patient care. In some states, a nurse practitioner is permitted to work independently without supervision by a physician, often performing many of the same tasks as an MD. The scope of the position will depend on the individual clinic’s regulations and the division of the staff’s tasks.   

Training to Become a Nurse Practitioner 

A nurse practitioner's education is extensive, typically beginning with the same training a registered nurse receives - usually an Associate Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). As their career progresses, later training can also include a masters or doctorate in nursing or another specialty health care field. Nurse practitioners are essentially RNs with additional medical training and expertise, along with the ability to diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, offer treatment, and even perform minor surgeries. 

Settings Where Nurse Practitioners Work 

In many states, nurse practitioners are qualified to work without a doctor's supervision, performing medical procedures that are usually fulfilled by a licensed physician. While some nurse practitioners do choose to work independently, others work in hospitals and other medical settings as part of teams that include doctors, other nurse practitioners, and RNs. 

The nurse practitioner can be found working in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes, private medical clinics, community clinics, doctors' offices, medical laboratories, and home health care organizations, as well as in private practices.

nurse practitioner with patient

Duties of a Nurse Practitioner 

Because the regulations vary so much from state to state regarding what tasks nurse practitioners can perform, a typical workday can include a wide range of responsibilities, including: 

  • Diagnosing, treating, and monitoring patients’ illnesses and symptoms
  • Performing checkups and other physical examinations for adult and child patients
  • Ordering and interpreting blood tests and other diagnostics
  • Taking patients’ medical histories and entering them into a database
  • Prescribing medications, physiotherapy, and other physical treatments
  • Providing prenatal care and family planning guidance
  • Administering vaccinations
  • Providing geriatric and palliative care
  • Referring patients to specialists when necessary
  • Performing minor surgeries (usually under observation by an attending physician)
  • Providing patient education regarding health, nutrition, and treatment options

In general, nurse practitioners emphasize prevention and well-being more than doctors normally do, so patient education comprises a significant portion of their work. They spend a considerable amount of time teaching patients to incorporate healthy nutritional habits and exercise regimens into their daily lifestyles. 

The nurse practitioner who chooses to work as part of a medical team in a hospital or health center will often take on the roles involving patient education, wellness, and prevention, while doctors provide diagnosis and treatment and nurses perform routine care. They often work closely with patients' families teaching them how to help  and care for their loved ones, and to be actively involved in their own or family member's treatment decisions. 

If you want additional information on becoming a nurse practioner, Nadine Aktan has written a book that will serve as a great resource: Fast Facts for the New Nurse Practitioner: What you Really Need to Know in a Nutshell. Please review the table of contents at the link above.

Other career path considerations:




MA Medical Assistant

MA to RN

NP Nurse Practitioner

Legal Nurse Consultant

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